It started with a note home from school...

Pauline Ferguson, who has been volunteering with the Feis Dhoire Cholmcille since the early 80s.
Pauline Ferguson, who has been volunteering with the Feis Dhoire Cholmcille since the early 80s.

For many people in and around Derry the Feis is a feature of their childhood years but as they grow up and move on in life the memories of the trophies won, poems recited and songs sung are all that remain of the busy Easter weeks.

But for one local woman, the Feis has been her home every Easter for the last 30 years - and she hopes it will continue to be a part of her life for years to come.

However Pauline Ferguson from Eglinton has never actually competed in the Feis herself. Her association with Feis Dhoire Cholmcille began as that most revered of local characters - the Feis Mammy.

For when her daughter Wendy came from school in the early 80s with a note from her teacher, the family’s connection with the Feis was born.

“Wendy came from home school with a note from her teacher suggesting that we have her voice trained as she was a nice singer. I’d never had any notion of it before, but we signed her up with the MacCafferty School of Music and soon we found ourselves at the Feis.”

Wendy’s natural talent for singing soon shone through and mother and daughter found themselves first of all competing in junior competitions in the Rialto and St. Columb’s Hall and then through the senior competitions in the Guildhall.

“I would say Wendy won just about every award going,” Pauline said - and the pair became such frequent visitors to the Feis that Pauline was soon roped in to help out as an assistant.

She has continued to offer her services even though her daughter has since moved on - forging out a hugely successful career for herself in London’s West End where she is currently starring as Mdme Thernadier in Les Miserables.

“The Feis served Wendy very well so I suppose I wanted to give something back to them so when Ursula Clifford asked me to help out, I couldn’t say no!”

Over the years Pauline has witnessed every aspect of the Feis experience.

“The old days, back in the Guildhall, were something else. There was an incredible buzz around the place. Between competitions, which always ran late, we would be out in the foyer drinking tea, listening to the choirs warm up and soaking it all up.

“Now we see children come through whose grannies competed years ago. There is still a great deal of talent - and that is always exciting to see. But it’s nice to see the tradition last generations.”